Sunday, June 06, 2010

PG Tips

PG Wodehouse Image from Wikipedia

Today is PG Wodehouse Day. After the gloom of yesterday's International Environment Day and the realisation that there were not many reasons for celebration on its account, this is certainly a relief. One's only obligation today is to exchange Wodehouse quotes with friends and acquaintances. Much easier than exchanging grimaces over oil spills.

I'd like to begin with this,

I know I was writing stories when I was five. I don't know what I did before that. Just loafed, I suppose.

It's so easy to imagine the feckless questioner who might have prompted such a reply.

Have you always been a writer Mr Wodehouse?

Wodehouse had a talent for rejoicing in the absurd. It's a useful talent to have. There is so much absurdity about. Countering with humour is the cerebral equivalent of having a sturdy and very full water canteen in the desert.

The earnestness and self-righteousness of the chronically useless particularly amused him. GW Bush is a classic Wodehouse invention. Shame he died in 1975 and we can't sue him or his estate for that particular atrocity. But we can all recall 'W' when we think of this,

If he had a mind, there was something on it.

Like the WMDs of Damocles for e.g.

Wodehouse's Jeeves/Wooster construct represents woefully miscast ends of a pantomime horse. They were both born into the wrong class for the jobs they inherited. Jeeves is forced to act as the head for a pittance of a head's salary. If he doesn't, the show will fail and sweep away his livelihood with it. There can't be a secretary alive who doesn't know how this feels. Never has such a mismatch been so poignantly iterated as in this exchange between the over and under,

"There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, 'Do trousers matter?'"

"The mood will pass, sir."

(The Code of the Woosters)

And he was so great at employing literary peers as metaphor,

"Suddenly there was a sound like G.K. Chesterton falling on a tin roof."

Chesterton was physically huge. But the metaphor is as likely to be a jibe at Chesterton's politics as his size. Although Wodehouse loved a class parody, he was not so keen on disrupting the status quo as Chesterton who suggests here,

"Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it."

(The Man Who Was Thursday)

As much as he loved to lampoon the British class structure, Wodehouse would have been horrified at the thought of it being replaced by the revolution of Chesterton's imaginings. He wasn't, however, above the odd anarchic fantasy of his own,

"Whenever I get that sad, depressed feeling, I go out and kill a policeman."

Now that is really quite subversive, and not a million miles from the Chesterton of say, The Napoleon of Notting Hill.

But this is my favourite,

"I can detach myself from the world. If there is a better world to detach oneself from than the one functioning at the moment I have yet to hear of it."

Don't it warm your heart to think that Outsiderville is a really truly place? It sure does mine.

You have a happy Wodehouse Day now.